Grön, which has been named Restaurant of the Year, is putting its efforts into interesting vegetables and an uncomplicated atmosphere. The summer flavors give this Helsinki restaurant an injection of vitality, even in the middle of winter.
THE CLINKING OF CUTLERY and glasses and the hubbub of guests fill Grön’s attractive dining room on Albertinkatu, Helsinki. One of the walls is painted a naturally deep moss green.
It’s not just the guests who enjoy the lively atmosphere – the chefs, bustling to and fro as they work, do too. This was an important starting point when the founders of Grön, Toni Kostian and Lauri Kähkönen, began planning their restaurant. The pair wanted the kitchen staff to be part of the dining room.
“We wanted to put the kitchen activities, all the way up to coffee-making, on display,” Kostian says. “We don’t want to hide anything. The ways of working that our chefs display are a part of the Grön restaurant experience.”
In addition to revealing the cooking process, Kostian and Kähkönen wanted to build an easily approachable restaurant in which food was always in first place, with all other unnecessary snags ironed out.
“Not everything has to be done for the sake of form and the same way it always has been.”
“We tried to cut everything pointless out of our service. Not everything has to be done for the sake of form and the same way it always has been. We wondered, for example, whether there was any value in laying tables again between courses. In our opinion, there isn’t.”
Guests can feel comfortable coming to Grön, despite its ambitious menu, because of its simple atmosphere. The uncomplicated concept has worked: the Finnish Gastronomical Society named Grön Restaurant of the Year 2017.
“People don’t think of fine dining as a low-threshold thing. This is the wrong image: the food and wine can be extremely well thought through, even though the restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere.”
“The food and wine can be extremely well thought through, even though the restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere.”
People who have tried the restaurat know this: it opened in October 2015 and hooked visitors straight away.
“Realizing that people understood what we were about, and noticing that growth was fast, was cool,” Kostian says. “It’s equally cool to see that our guests are of all ages, and diverse in other ways. It would be really boring if the target audience were just business people.“
Vegetables are the focus in Grön, but there is also meat and fish on the menu. The origins of the tastes on offer are nearby, in the Nordic countries. Above all, Toni Kostian and Lauri Kähkönen wanted to give guests dishes that inspire.
The rarer delights might only be available for a day.
Seasonality has become a mantra for restaurants recently, and Grön is no exception – the kitchen buys the ingredients that are best available at that given time of year. The restaurant’s menu is updated about once a month, with shorter cycles in spring and longer ones in winter. The rarer delights might only be available for a day. For example, rowan buds have to be gathered at precisely the right moment.
In Toni Kostian’s opinion, however, there is no reason to get locked in seasonality. He is enthusiastic about foraging for mushrooms in the fall, for example, but at the same time does not feel any panic outside the harvest season, even in the depths of winter.
“Sometimes this trend is emphasized a little too much. A good chef’s imagination and skill work all year round. For example, here at Grön the preserved summer ingredients liven up our menu in winter. Fermented rhubarb, for example, tastes amazing!”
Restaurant Grön, Albertinkatu 36, Helsinki
Text: Laura Friman Images: Annikki Valomieli